‘The Most Intact’ Roman Mausoleum and Mosaic Uncovered in Rubble of New Building Site in London

Just a stone’s throw from London Bridge subway station at The Liberty of Southwark development site, a rare Roman mausoleum and mosaic floor in February 2022 was discovered, described by experts as “completely unique.”

Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) worked alongside Landsec and Transport for London to uncover the historic find for preservation. It will be retained in the new development for public enjoyment.

The researchers traced the walls of the mausoleum—a type of monumental tomb—which were likely partially dismantled for reuse in the medieval period. The lowest steps of the entrance also survived. At its center is a raised mosaic floor, beneath which a second mosaic was found. Both bear similar designs: a central flower with surrounding concentric circles and paved tile perimeter.

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Researchers work on what once was a Roman mausoleum at The Liberty of Southwark development site. (© MOLA)
Epoch Times Photo
A Roman mausoleum at The Liberty of Southwark development site near London Bridge station. (© MOLA)
Epoch Times Photo
Researchers examine a raised Roman mosaic that was part of mausoleum at The Liberty of Southwark development site. (© MOLA)

Running alongside the mosaics are raised platforms parallel to the walls arranged around three sides of the structure. This is where the dead were once kept although no remains were present in the discovery. These platforms consist of tiles bonded with a hard-wearing, waterproof pink mortar known as opus signinum.

Although no coffins or human remains were found, archaeologists did locate 100 coins along with some scrap pieces of metal, fragments of pottery, and roofing tiles.

The mausoleum has been hailed by MOLA as “the most intact Roman mausoleum ever to be discovered in Britain.”

Epoch Times Photo
A second mosaic was found beneath the overlaying one in what once was a Roman mausoleum. (© MOLA)
Epoch Times Photo
Archeologists work on a Roman mausoleum that was uncovered just a stone’s throw from London Bridge station. (© MOLA)
Epoch Times Photo
A digital reconstruction showing what the Roman mausoleum and mosaic might have looked like in their day. (© MOLA)

Researchers involved in the excavation project remarked that the discovery bespeaks of changing times through different periods of the Roman Empire.

“This relatively small site in Southwark is a microcosm for the changing fortunes of Roman London—from the early phase of the site where London expands and the area has lavishly decorated Roman buildings, all the way through to the later Roman period when the settlement shrinks and it becomes a more quiet space where people remember their dead,” senior archaeologist at MOLA Antonietta Lerz said in a statement.

“It provides a fascinating window into the living conditions and lifestyle in this part of the city in the Roman period.”

The mausoleum would have been used by wealthier members of Roman society. It could have belonged to a burial club, whose members paid a monthly fee to be buried inside. Or the mausoleum might simply have been a family tomb.

Epoch Times Photo
A Roman mosaic in a Roman mausoleum is seen below the City of London skyline. (© MOLA)

The monument was not found in isolation, as over 80 Roman period burials were uncovered in the surrounding area. These contained personal effects such as copper bracelets, glass beads, coins, pottery, and even a bone comb.

Now, the collaboration to safely excavate the mausoleum and mosaic has concluded, although work to further understand and more accurately date the find continues.

The Liberty of Southwark development aims to “bring exciting contributions to the local area” that will create more jobs, enhance the Crossbones Graveyard, and provide much-needed affordable workspace. A piece of English Roman history like no other, the mausoleum will be restored and retained in the permanent scheme, displayed for the public to appreciate and enjoy.

“The future display of the mausoleum will provide a tangible link between the Roman archaeology of Southwark and the site on which the artefacts were found, making these unique discoveries publicly accessible,” MOLA stated.

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